I’ve found another career path: the circus. It’s not a huge surprise as I’m from Baraboo, Wisconsin, which is known as “Circus Town, USA” due to it being the home of the Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus.
Maybe your grandmother didn’t take you and your cousins to the circus every summer but mine did.
Consequently, I am definitely not afraid of clowns. My grade school friends at St. John’s and I used to stalk the home of Happy the Clown.
Clowns were not people or monsters to us Baraboo kids… they existed solely to amuse us.
This made us the monsters.
In any case, my parents were close friends with the nice man who cared for the Ringling Mansion during the winter when the Ringling Royal Family were away and so I as a kid had free run of the place for a time.
My favorite features of the house were its elevator and the polar bear rug.
Naturally, the polar bear was my friend and he and I mourned their fate.
Um… are you serious? Why are you talking about the circus again?
I bring up the circus because I am now officially a Strong Man. I was part of a four-human team which was sent in to complete this gigantic house move my small company was contracted to spectacularly pull off within a precarious timeframe which was wedged between and around the Christmas holidays.
And none of us could get COVID because we needed every single person to complete this job on schedule.
This has become more difficult as now my husband and I know of more breakthrough cases in our immediate world than ever before.
So, on the Monday following Christmas, on the final three days of this epic job, the four of us stayed in a Chicago area hotel and put in 10-12 hour days of physical labor to make sure we completed this job on time.
And – despite the odds – we each remained COVID-free throughout the month, the holiday and the job.
Luckily, the client was a very kind and nice person who owned the nicest and most lovely dog so, while he also apparently (this is my husband’s joke) clearly bought furniture according to its weight,
the job pushed us to our physical ends but it wasn’t complete torture.
It did however destroy us a little so today is a day of recovery as thankfully we have today off.
But we aren’t only recovering from the job, we are trying to process an especially eventful and traumatizing month.
PRAISE GOD: CHRISTMAS IS OVER
I took down most of the Christmas stuff the day after Christmas which is unusual because I usually leave it up indefinitely.
After all, I’m often taking down Christmas to make room for the Halloween decorations in September.
But not this year… my family has canceled Christmas for tragic losses before… but I had hoped this wouldn’t be a trend that continued.
Yet, as an overview:
Annual Christmas Gathering #1:
My mom’s side of the family lost a key family member (metaphorically) which is having some disastrous consequences like the shock wave of a monstrous earthquake.
Therefore, that Christmas gathering was canceled.
Annual Christmas Gathering #2:
Meanwhile, my dad’s side… I’m not sure if they gathered for Christmas because no one told me but usually I’m the one who reaches out and I didn’t because of the house purchase and our crazy work schedule and my other family’s loss/tragedy which I was trying to ethically cope with.
And the invite didn’t come. So, since COVID is *raving, and since this epic work project requires every single one of us, I couldn’t risk a gathering anyways but still felt a bit sad to have theoretically missed the family gathering.
But my fucking phone was losing texts and bugging out the entire month so maybe I just missed the invite.
Semi-Annual-with-Aspirations-to-be-Annual Christmas Gathering #3:
This left us with my husband’s family and… without disclosing too much, I’ll just say that he too lost a significant family member in spectacularly dramatic fashion which subsequently canceled that Christmas gathering and left behind its own shock waves.
In summary, this year’s Christmas had a tremendous amount of seismic activity which has left many members of our family and us in a rather wrecked state.
It was sort of the opposite of what Christmas normally is for me.
However, my husband and I did our best to endeavor through the Christmas holiday in, unexpectedly, our new little house but we still felt a bit stripped of something essential.
We also didn’t have much food because we had expected to be away for a few days and fed by family.
Thus, this year’s Christmas has left us with the feeling that – next year – we are volunteering at a soup kitchen and I’m just masking up and going to church.
Yet, we enjoyed how our house has insulation in its walls in contrast with our shitty apartment and we also established a potentially new tradition: seeing a showing of It’s a Wonderful Life at the atmospheric Avalon on Christmas Eve. We did this Christmas Eve afternoon and exited the theater with a bunch of masked, sobbing people who really meant it when they said “Merry Christmas”.
And, on Boxing Day, I felt the need to move beyond this rather explosive December in order to look ahead.
Therefore, as part of my dramatic de-installation of all the Christmas shit, I removed most of our scraggly Christmas tree’s ornaments and all of its rainbow lights, leaving only its white lights, which brought about the Angel Tree far earlier this year than normal.
Subsequently, the house is now much darker and, in a visual sense, quieter due to the absence of 95% of the Christmas lights which had previously blanketed the interior of our house, creating the odd sensation that our home was always on fire.
I debated taking down the exterior lights on our front porch which I had impatiently installed on Day One of House Ownership but they are already largely the only Christmas lights on our block and it didn’t seem fair to darken the neighborhood too.
Besides, I also use the exterior Christmas lights to find our house because I can’t see well when driving at night so taking them down would have made my life that much more difficult.
I tried to make this de-installation process one of renewal and not one of anger. Accordingly, I patted the head of a stuffed polar bear with a snowflake sweater as I lovingly laid it in a box, tucking it in with tissue paper.
I had engaged in a team meeting with the Christmas shit beforehand, saying we all did our best this year but things were out of our control and this holiday and the year in which it sat simply needed to be put away.
“Indeed. But, after all, Christmas lives on in our hearts,” the stuffed polar bear in a snowflake sweater stated in response from its place in the cardboard box.
And now the beloved Christmas shit is carefully packed and sitting on basement shelves.
Also, with all the Christmas shit gone, I can now see our new house for the first time.
I had covered it in Christmas on the very first day we occupied its space so it was refreshing to truly see it.
And that’s what New Year is all about.
After Christmas Day, I walked around our house and mapped the aesthetic transformation of each room.
I also restored my phone back to its factory settings as it was progressively becoming more insane and dysfunctional with each day until it got to the point where I could no longer take photos or send texts.
I am quite tolerant of the progressive decay of people/objects until it gets to the point where an intervention is absolutely necessary.
And now my phone is operating very well.
Better now. If only we humans had a factory reset setting. Us epileptics kind of do but it’s a little too reckless to use seizures in such a way.
Also, at 42 years old, I’ve learned another trick of survival:
after enduring a personal earthquake of significant magnitude and your brain is afloat in trauma, try to undertake an activity that pushes your body to its physical end.
There is no time for an existential crisis when your body is aflame with the pain and swelling of extreme physical use.
Yesterday morning, one of my fellow manual laborers and I stepped back on the circular driveway of the mansion we were charged to empty and, after lifting an insanely heavy piece of antique furniture onto our truck, he turned to me and said, “Well, I’m definitely stronger than I was on Monday.”
Yes. It was rather amazing. We were physically stronger now.
When you can’t neatly solve some life problems, create other problems and neatly solve and survive them, giving you a kind of morale boost.
When the pigeon:
Be the chick:
Look for the Magic
On Christmas Eve, as my husband and I sat, traumatized, in our wildly lit house
we had some unexpected visitors when watching Scrooged after church.
For, while staring out our back door, I gasped when I saw a little face peering back at me.
It was an opossum! I had never seen a real live ‘possum before and to have it arrive on Christmas Eve felt magical.
My friend had been bitten by an opossum a couple years ago and had to get rabies shots so I went outside but didn’t get too close
and, naturally, asked it if it was Santa.
It was on the roof and also unexpected so… this was a question worth asking.
In response, the creature lifted its head and let out some kind of strained, pleading noise.
I felt this was “Yes” in ‘possum language.
I also felt it was genuinely stuck on the garage roof as I had watched it climb its big fat way up there and, as we all know, getting up is easier than getting down in most cases involving height.
But… I didn’t know how I could help it. I know plenty of people who actively care for wild opossums, leaving them water and food, but… this creature was GIANT and I didn’t want to lead it on.
If I helped it, maybe it would find its way into our house and there wasn’t room for that kind of rat-tailed giant creature inside our home.
So I wished it a merry Christmas and went back inside to watch it struggle. It didn’t win my respect because it is a wild urban animal which seemed pretty fucking helpless.
Eventually Santa found its way onto our border fence
and then Santa fell off into the bushes on the next door neighbor’s side.
“Merry Christmas, neighbors! It’s Santa!”
But as soon as Santa the opossum was gone, I missed it and regretted not helping it.
So, after some time passed, I called out “‘Possum, come back!”
To my surprise, at that exact moment, I looked out and saw a mother flipping raccoon.
At first, we thought it was the opossum. But, no, it was another unexpected wild friend.
And it felt as if I had summoned it.
The raccoon was also quite fat and its bright black eyes seemed to be staring steadily back at mine.
It should be noted that this city raccoon looked less like a city raccoon and more like a woodland raccoon due to how clean and healthy it appeared.
Its coat shone in the moonlight and it just kept sitting there on our garage loft step and staring at us, almost as if it was expecting something from us.
I was so gobsmacked to see another creature outside that I didn’t get a photo of the raccoon until it was working it way down the stairs to exit our backyard.
I’ve been alive long enough to know that raccoons can really fuck things up so I have no regrets about not showing any kind of affection to that creature but… it was still rather wondrous.
My dear friend Val posted the perfect meme to summarize this Christmas Eve visitation:
It was either magical and some kind of low-grade Christmas miracle or else I had turned evil over the holiday and now the creatures of the night were emerging from the shadows to walk into the light to pay me their respect.
It would be shitty to have turned powerfully evil and not even realize it though.
In any case, happy new year to everyone! If your holiday was traumatic or left you feeling empty, don’t be afraid to get all mainstream and see this upcoming holiday as a chance to start anew.
Life is brutal and relentless but that just means sometimes you have to be brutal and relentless too.
Stay safe, keep warm and don’t give up.
After all, I was feeling pretty low and really didn’t want to be getting up at 5:45AM to go do a moving job for a stranger. But, because of it, now I know that, when I’m not feeling emotionally strong, I now am eligible to be the Strong Man in some circus due to my amazing physical strength because it’s good to always have a Plan B.
And so, if you know of a traveling circus in your area, be sure to send them around.
Who knows what tomorrow will bring but may the new year bring you renewal, recovery and circus dreams too.